About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Curing and Smoking Meats: Brines and Smears

One of the most fun and interesting things I get to do during this winter break at the Dairy is to get caught up on some of the meat processing and charcuterie work I had to postpone.  We were  way too busy when we harvested the pigs and steer last fall for me to get much more done with them than cut up the steaks, and chops, make some stock, render some lard and get the rest frozen in bulk.  Now that I have a reduced work load for a few weeks I will finally be grinding the hamburger, making sausages, smoking hams, and pork bellies for bacon.
Earlier this week I pulled all the bellies, jowls, capos (top necks), shanks and a few pork chops from the freezer and set them to thaw gently in the refrigerator for several days. I prefer to work with the meat when it's fresh but have not noticed any definitive difference in the final product, either way.  This may be because I usually end up freezing most of the final products after curing and smoking anyway.
Once thawed I separated all the pieces by type of smoking, ending up with 45 lbs of jowls, bellies and chops for cold smoking and about 15 lbs of capos and shanks for hot smoking.  With this information I could figure out how much of each type of curing mix I needed to make and how long the pieces should cure.
Making the cures is easy and I'll be posting the recipes use soon.  Careful measuring/weighing of ingredients is important, especially for the curing salt required.
 I made the cold-smoke bacon cure first and slathered the bellies, jowls and chops well with the mix.  They all got packed into a large Rubbermaid storage container and set in a 38 degree F refrigerator where they will stay for about a week, getting turned and re-coated every few days.
The cold-smoking meats in their smear
The ham brine is a much more liquid mix.  Once it was made I injected as much of the brine as possible into each piece of capo meat and shank, then submerged them in the remaining brine and refrigerated.  They too will be agitated every few days for about a week.
Injecting the cure into the meat

To be continued...

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